The short interval between the time this article hits the presses and the time it appears at newsstands may end up being filled by several new "political" and "field" episodes from the series "Spring offensive of the AKSh in Macedonia". Fortunately, already the first episode, a failed proclamation of the first AKSh liberated territory in Lipkovo, offers sufficient material to analyze the scenario whose authors (perhaps independently of each other) are Valdet Vardari, AKSh political commissar, and Arben Xhaferi, leader of the Democratic Party of Albanians (DPSh). Immediately, at the beginning, we should say that this is an old scenario, already worn-out by long and, unfortunately, successful application two years ago. The secret of the success of that scenario is in limited provocation - by the way there is sufficient force for that, just like at the same stage of the plan in 2001 - with the goal of provoking a series of wrong steps by the authorities, which is supposed to generate support among the local population and consternation of the international factor. A typical example of this scenario is "Tanusevci". But that is an old, well known story.
The message became clearer a day later, when in the Parliament of Macedonia Zamir Dika from the DPSh announced a ground breaking initiative for the speeding up for "the implementation of the Ohrid Agreement" in the guise of a proposed legislation about bilingual passports. Additionally, to improve "the artistic impression", Albanian representatives started a new battle for consistent use of their mother tongue in all parliamentary bodies. They also demanded that former UCK members and ethnic Albanian civilians who died in the war two years ago be awarded state pensions. There is no need to say that the representatives from the Areben Xhaferi's party led the charge.
The DPSh initiative, clearly, lacks a true political substance, since it cannot produce any serious effect. Xhaferi feels that SDSM and BDI are close to the solution of the most important disputes related to the Ohrid Agreement, on the verge of true, essential speeding up of the process of stabilization of the political situation in the country. His ad-hoc initiative is essentially supposed to sabotage the impending positive turnaround and at the same time draw the outline of a somewhat belated political platform that can be used as a basis for the start of new political dialog with some new naughty boys in the mountains. At this moment that is all a defeated and discredited politician can offer - why else would Xhaferi be concerned about the "speeding up of the implementation of the Ohrid Agreement"?
Of course, this is an already seen scheme. In the same manner two Albanian political parties, the DPSh and the Party for Democratic Prosperity (PDP), in 2001 flirted with confused extremist political demands in an attempt to please the terrorists in the mountains. When the latter later became "guerillas" and earned a sort of political legitimacy, it was too late for everyone - both for the Macedonian authorities, but also for the Albanian political leaders, above all for the phenomenon Arben Xhaferi, who later lost the political battle with Ahmeti in the only undeniably fair and democratic elections, held in an almost celebratory atmosphere.
The most recent incident, in which two Polish NATO soldiers died, is a good example. It would have been funny if it was not a tragedy. The bodies of unfortunate soldiers, whose vehicle had hit a land mine, were still warm, when their bosses hurried to deny the (still unofficial) theory - that the land mine had deliberately been laid in the path of the vehicle with the intent to kill (and not planted to grow, as that granny with Janko on Channel 4 said). Later NATO representatives had to contradict themselves and offer a totally different, more realistic explanation for the attack.
As former UCK soldiers, AKSh leaders probably know very well that NATO, EU, OSCE and other international factors will in the future comment on the situation in Macedonia in the same manner. The new NATO command in the country, and later the Euro forces that are expected by the end of the month, will soon adopt the manner of their predecessors. Unfortunately, for a long time this spring, the Macedonian public will be entertained by claims that AKSh does not exist and that there is no spring offensive.
The only original aspect of the scenario of provocation in Macedonia, rather unpleasant for the Macedonian authorities, are possible implication for the attitude of internally displaced ethnic Macedonians, who are at this point mostly refusing to return to their homes in crisis regions. Prime Minister Crvenkovski and BDI leader Ahmeti understand that nothing can confirm better the improvement of the political-security situation than the return of refugees to their homes. That is why, most likely, both Ahmeti and the leader of the PDP Abdurahman Aliti in Tetovo, enacting the role of responsible politicians, are together warning that "the situation in Macedonia is already stable, but there are elements that do not want peace and stability in the state".
However, there are more important things than statements. The battle with gangs will be fought on two fronts, probably simultaneously. With a forceful action in the field and with forceful initiative for the implementation of the Ohrid Agreement. Knowledgeable observers predict that the government of the SDSM and BDI has potential for success in such a battle. In that, there are two reasons for optimism.
First, it is believed that in a forthcoming, probably unavoidable, clash with the police and the military in the field, the AKSh should come out worse off. Crvenkovski, Kostov and Buckovski will certainly not initiate unprepared actions, like Georgievski did in Tanusevci, for example. A well prepared action carried out "with surgical precision", without tanks and aviation (with possible use of assault helicopters), without killing of innocent civilians, will definitely earn the support of foreigners. Finally, although there are some unconfirmed assertions that the local gangs are being equipped with heavy weaponry, they lack needed logistical support. It seems that the local ethnic Albanians have after all had enough of fighting and especially of contributions for the "heroes".
Secondly, it seems that Crvenkovski and Ahmeti still have the will to overcome differences in connection with the implementation of the Ohrid peace agreement. Moreover, it seems that those differences at this time are not essential, which means that the critical level of readiness of the two sides to give a new, strong, political impulse for stabilization of the situation exists. There is no other political factor, least of all the DPSh, that much is clear, with real power and political legitimacy to attempt anything serious in the direction of the improvement of the situation.
To conclude: if there are no tragic mistakes, if the authorities keep their calm in response to provocations and endangerment of peace, if they do not succumb to the rhetoric of foreign diplomats and if the authorities move forcefully on all fronts, the Government will without doubt succeed in reducing the current threats to the level that they objectively at this moment must have, the level of cheap schemes of spent political snake-oil sellers. If that does not happen, we shall watch a repeat.
The author is editor-in-chief of Dnevnik